Bad Weather Slows Shots; U.S. Vaccine to Double: Virus Update
Syringes loaded with the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine in the Covid-19 vaccination centre, set up inside the former Tegel Airport, in Berlin. (Photographer: Kay Nietfeld/DPA/Bloomberg)

Bad Weather Slows Shots; U.S. Vaccine to Double: Virus Update

The U.S. vaccine supply is poised to double in the coming weeks and months, according to an analysis by Bloomberg, allowing a broad expansion of doses administered across the country.

Winter storms in the U.S. continue to slow the vaccination drive, including in New York City, Florida and Puerto Rico. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, said inoculations have come to a “grinding halt” in some places. Massachusetts said it might send National Guard troops to pick up its next vaccine shipments.

Brazil became the third country in the world to breach 10 million coronavirus cases. France is committing to donate 5% of its secured vaccine supplies to poorer countries. The U.S. will contribute as much as $4 billion to the global effort to fund vaccinations in lower-income countries, but doesn’t plan on shipping any of its own vaccines abroad until the nation’s own demand has been met.

Key Developments:

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Bad Weather Slows Shots; U.S. Vaccine to Double: Virus Update

Biden to Pledge $4 Billion to Vaccines for Poorer Nations (5:10 p.m. NY)

The U.S. will contribute as much as $4 billion to Covax, the global effort to fund vaccinations in lower-income countries, but doesn’t plan on shipping any of its own vaccines abroad until the nation’s own demand has been met, officials familiar with the matter said.

President Joe Biden will announce during a Group of Seven call on Friday that the U.S. will commit $2 billion immediately to the program and pledge another $2 billion with conditions designed to spur contributions from other countries, said the officials, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

Illinois Cases of U.K. Strain Almost Double (4:38 p.m. NY)

Illinois reported 17 more cases of the more-transmissible strain of the coronavirus first found in the U.K. That almost doubled the number of known cases to 42, state data show. The state also has one case of the variant first found in South Africa.

Meantime, Alabama said it has eight cases of the variant. But the Department of Public Health tweeted that “only a couple of the cases had out-of-state travel prior to illness onset which indicates this variant strain is already circulating in Alabama.”

Nationwide, there almost 1,300 reported cases of the U.K. variant, called B.1.1.7, in 42 states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The body has projected that the strain, which U.K. scientists say is “likely” more lethal, may become dominant in the U.S. as early as March.

Florida Nears 30,000 Deaths (3:11 p.m. NY)

Florida is poised to pass 30,000 total fatalities, the fourth state in the U.S. to do so.

The state hit 29,990 deaths, combining residents and non-residents, on Thursday amid declining cases, hospitalizations and, more recently, fatalities. In order, the states with the most deaths are California, New York and Texas, each with more than 40,000.

Earlier, Governor Ron DeSantis said the Moderna vaccine shipment that the state usually gets early in the week could now arrive as late as Monday as a result of winter weather across the nation. “Because of the storms that we’re seeing throughout the country, it’s basically sitting in the Fedex warehouse,” DeSantis said Thursday in Pinellas Park.

Brazil Hits 10 Million Covid Cases (3:08 p.m. NY)

Brazil cases surpassed 10 million, with infections picking up speed in recent weeks as a new variant spreads amid a shortage of vaccines.

Latin America’s largest nation reported 51,879 new cases Thursday, pushing the total confirmed to 10,030,626, according to Health Ministry data. It’s a toll that lags only the U.S. and India. Deaths rose by 1,367 to 243,457, the second-highest globally.

“Brazil’s situation is really bad, with contagion at high levels. We’re seeing health systems in several states either in collapse or close to it,” said Estevao Urbano, an infectious disease expert and director at Brazil’s Infectology Society.

Mexico Warns Against Counterfeit Pfizer Vaccine (2:54 p.m. NY)

Mexico issued a warning on the alleged illegal application of Pfizer’s vaccine in the state of Nuevo Leon, according to health agency Cofepris.

Th vaccine has not been authorized for sale to the private sector, so any substance acquired through an intermediary is false, it said.

A U.S. Vaccine Surge Is Coming (2:48 p.m. NY)

The U.S. vaccine supply is poised to double in the coming weeks and months, according to an analysis by Bloomberg, allowing a broad expansion of doses administered across the country.

Currently, the U.S. is administering 1.6 million doses a day, constrained by the recent supply of about 10 million to 15 million doses a week. But Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers and U.S. officials have accelerated their production timelines and signaled that the spigots are about to open, providing hundreds of millions of doses to match the growing capacity to immunize people at pharmacies and mass-vaccination sites.

A review of drugmakers’ public statements and their supply deals suggests that the number of vaccines delivered should rise to almost 20 million a week in March, more than 25 million a week in April and May, and over 30 million a week June. By summer, it would be enough to give 4.5 million shots a day.

France to Donate 5% of Vaccine to Poorer Countries (1:59 p.m. NY)

France is committing to donate 5% of its secured Covid-19 vaccine supplies to poorer countries through the World Health Organization-backed Covax program.

A multilateral approach via Covax -- a global alliance many developing nations are relying on for inoculations -- is the most efficient way to show solidarity, a French official who asked not to be named in line with protocol, said Thursday.

France hopes the U.S. will make financial commitments regarding vaccines during a Group of Seven summit on Friday, the official added.

Massachusetts Governor May Send Troops to Get Vaccine (1:47 p.m. NY)

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said he’s considering sending National Guard troops to pick up the state’s next vaccine shipments to avoid any delay from bad weather. He said the doses are warehoused in Tennessee and Kentucky.

“We got told last night that we might see a significant delay in our next shipments,” the Republican governor told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, according to the Boston Herald. “We can’t afford to go what will be almost a week without getting any new doses from the feds, and continue to maintain the appointment schedules that people here expect and anticipate.”

Israel to Vaccinate Palestinian Workers, Ynet Says (12:55 p.m. NY)

Israel plans to begin vaccinating Palestinians who work legally in its territory against Covid-19 using Moderna Inc. doses, news website Ynet reported Thursday.

The country’s inoculation drive is without parallel globally with more than 45% of the population receiving a first vaccine, but it has faced criticism for not offering jabs to millions of Palestinians who live under its control.

Canada Speeds Vaccines After Slow Start (12:37 p.m. NY)

Canada has begun to accelerate its vaccine rollout after delivery disruptions became a major political headache for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In an update by public-health officials Thursday, the government announced the pace of deliveries of both the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. shots is ramping up as of this week.

As many as 14.5 million of Canada’s 38 million people should be inoculated by the end of June, according to an updated timeline, up from the 13 million the government expected previously. Should vaccine candidates from AstraZeneca Plc, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc. win regulatory approval, the tally could climb to 24.5 million.

Fauci Says Weather Slowing Vaccinations (12:29 p.m. NY)

Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease doctor in the U.S., said winter storms and bad weather have brought vaccinations to a “grinding halt” in some places.

He said he did not know the precise extent of the national slowdown but said on MSNBC it was “a problem.”

“We’re just going to have to make up for it -- namely, do double time when this thing clears up,” he said. Vaccines have been administered below the daily average of 1.6 million shots, measured over a week, for the last three days, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker.

NYC Loses Vaccine Supply Because of Weather (10:52 a.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said snowstorms and bad weather resulted in the loss of several days of vaccine supply, as well as the delayed open of two vaccination sites. He said 30,000 to 35,000 appointments had to be held back and that initial deliveries of this week’s doses may not start until Saturday or Sunday.

Usually the city receives deliveries on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, de Blasio said. Officials said vaccine sites remain open today and that appointments for people getting their second shots won’t be impacted, but that in many cases it has had to stop scheduling new appointments. The city has administered 1.4 million vaccinations since it began its inoculation drive in December.

To decrease the disparities among New Yorkers getting the vaccine, de Blasio said the city has sent out 250 canvassers to the hardest-hit communities and public housing sites to help people sign up.

Weather Delays Vaccines in Puerto Rico (10:42 a.m. NY)

Puerto Rico said it was pushing all first-dose vaccinations scheduled for this week until March 3 or 4. Those receiving their second dose this week, however, will not see a change in their schedule.

Plunging temperatures and power outages in the southern and eastern U.S. have disrupted vaccine delivery, Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said in a statement. The U.S. territory of 3.2 million people has administered about 399,711 doses of both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

“Unfortunately, the weather is unpredictable,” he said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and concentrate on guaranteeing the second dose.”

South Africa Told It Can Use Pfizer Shot (6:55 p.m. HK)

South Africa can press ahead with the use of the the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the wake of a study showing how it stimulates neutralizing antibodies against the locally dominant coronavirus variant, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an online briefing, Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong said “what we are seeing based on the studies is not huge changes in neutralizing the antibodies of this virus.”

The lab-based study of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot showed it stimulated roughly two-thirds lower levels of neutralizing antibodies against the South African variant.

Vaccine-Makers to Begin Trials With Pregnant Women (6:39 p.m. HK)

Vaccine developers are set to begin trials for pregnant women, looking to provide reassurance the shots are safe.

Pfizer and BioNTech are starting trials for their messenger RNA vaccine in 4,000 women in the latter stages of pregnancy, according to the U.S. online clinical trial registry. AstraZeneca Plc. and Johnson & Johnson are planning to run trials in the coming months.

Until now, pregnant women have been excluded from vaccine studies even while they are more vulnerable to severe Covid-19. Some studies have also linked the disease to premature birth.

U.K. Airlines Call for Clarity Over Reopening Plans (6:19 p.m.)

The U.K. airline industry stepped up a campaign to persuade Prime Minister Boris Johnson that travel should be included in his plan to reopen the economy, calling for a clear road map to ease travel restrictions ahead of the crucial summer season.

Heads of carriers including EasyJet Plc and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. stressed the importance of the sector to the economy and employment. Overseas trips are effectively banned for most British people under lockdown rules, while incoming travelers are forced to take multiple Covid-19 tests and, in many cases, mandatory hotel quarantines.

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